Hammertoe is the permanent contracture or abnormal bending of one or both joints in the second, third, fourth or fifth (pinky) toes. This deformity may cause complications if there is pressure on the toe when wearing shoes.
The condition begins as a mild deformity and gradually worsens over time. Hammertoes are initially flexible and symptoms are responsive to noninvasive treatments. However, if treatment is not addressed, the toes can become more rigid and unresponsive to conservative measures.
Early medical attention is important to prevent hammertoes to progressively worsen. The condition is never alleviated without medical care.
Hammertoes are most commonly caused by an imbalance in the muscles or tendons. This imbalance leads to toe deformity as a result of structural changes in foot that gradually occur in some people.
Shoes that are too tight may aggravate hammertoes by forcing the toes into a bent position.
Some people are genetically predisposed to hammertoes. The deformity may occasionally develop from a previous physical trauma to the toe.
Hammertoes are associated with these common symptoms:
Dr. Radovic will review all of your symptoms and examine your foot to reach a diagnosis. During the examination, Dr. Radovic will study your toe deformities and attempt to recreate your symptoms with manipulation techniques. X-rays may help determine the extent of deformity and the progression of any symptoms.
Hammertoes do not clear on their own and usually worsen over time, with some cases progressing more rapidly than others. After evaluating your hammertoes, Dr. Radovic develops a treatment plan suited to your symptoms.
Hammertoe can be treated with a number of different options. Dr. Radovic chooses a treatment plan depending on a series of factors, including severity.
Non-surgical measures include:
Padding corns and calluses. Dr. Radovic can dispense or prescribe pads designed to protect corns from irritation. Some over the counter pads are medicated and should be avoided. These pads may contain a small amount of acid that can harm the skin. Ask Dr. Radovic before using over the counter pads.
Change your shoes. Shoes that are too short, have pointed toes, or high heels press the toe against the front of the shoe. Choose comfortable shoes with a deep, wide toe box and heels at a maximum of two inches.
Orthotic devices. Custom made orthotics worn inside shoes can help balance the muscles and tendons.
Injection therapy. Corticosteroid injections can effectively reduce pain and inflammation resulting from hammertoe.
Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as Advil can help reduce pain and inflammation.
Splinting or strapping. Dr. Radovic may apply a splint or small straps to realign the bent toe.
Surgery is usually needed when the hammertoe has turned rigid and painful, or when an open sore develops.
Patients with hammertoe usually have other foot deformities corrected simultaneously. The procedure or combination of procedures will be based on a number of factors including the advancement of your hammertoe, the number of affected toes, your age and your activity level. Recovery periods vary in length depending on the selected procedure or procedures.